ByS.C. O'Donnell, writer at
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S.C. O'Donnell

Bill Maher is best known for speaking his mind in his political commentary, regardless of how people will judge him. Although Maher's views can be harsh at times, the TV host is a proponent of open discussion and believes that everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

Recently, took his gaze off the realm of politics, and turned his eyes to a subject near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts. That's right guys. We’ve heard people bash the rise in superhero films over the past 10 years, but Bill Maher took it to the next level, savagely ripping into the genre and even blaming the costumed do-gooders for the current state of America.

Bill Maher v Superhero Movies: Dawn Of Lunacy

During his ‘New Rule’ segment on Real Time with Bill Maher, the host attacked the superhero genre, because, in his opinion, comic book films promote dependence on easy solutions. During his monologue/rant, Maher listed every superhero film/TV show in production, and used several of them as a punchline.

Once Maher established the sheer number of superhero properties being produced, he angled towards the problem he believes that these properties represent:

“[Superhero culture] promotes the mind-set that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star Lord and a fucking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments — we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”

Once his angle was established, it became clear that he was only using the superhero genre to set up jokes, and to poke fun at the current administration. Maher ended the segment with a simple statement:

“We need to be our own superheroes”

Now that we have heard Maher's opinions on the superhero genre, let's take a closer look at his message, and break down some of his talking points.

Why Are Superhero Films Getting Made?

First off, we are going to cast aside Maher’s politics for the sake of argument, and focus on his view of the superhero genre. In the first half of Maher’s segment, he points out that there is an alarming number of superhero films and TV shows in production, and this is true. What he failed to mention is why they are getting made.

Superhero films are being made because they generate a lot of money. It’s basic supply and demand; people want to see them, so they get made. This is capitalism at its best, and capitalism is the basis for the American economy. Therefore, Maher’s point about the superhero genre not being what America needs is rendered moot, because it helps to sustain one of America’s chief industries, film and television.

Hypocrisy And A Lack Of Information

Moving past the superhero genre's positive influence on capitalism, let's look at Maher’s claim that superhero films have made Americans complacent and dependent on simple solutions. Oddly enough, this idea that Maher is perpetuating stands in stark contradiction to a previous point he made on another ‘New Rule’ segment about false equivalency.

During this segment, Maher targeted “lazy people”, but he was really talking about people who lack proper information. Maher may have spoken specifically about politics, but his point was simple: people take stances to sound justifiably jaded, but this is only because they don’t have/want all the information. Coincidentally, this is exactly what Maher was doing during his rant about the superhero genre.

It’s easy to see that Bill Maher doesn’t know much about superheroes, and this is highlighted by how he refers to the films he is speaking of (Spider-Man 6, X-Men 6, etc.). Maher attacked the premise of superhero films illogically, and assumed that the impact of these films is negative. Intriguingly, there's also an underlying assumption here that people are deifying the superheroes who star in these movies, when, in reality, many fans actually relate to the likes of Spider-Man.

Superheroes Promote Self-Reliance And Hope

The core value of many comic book heroes is not their dependence on others to solve problems. Instead, it’s the hero who is responsible for their own decisions, and how they affect the world around them. This is what the viewers relate to most.

Maher’s point doesn’t account for the positive message of self-reliance that superheroes portray. People that enjoy comic book films don’t want to be saved, they want to be the hero — People dress up as Batman, not the people Batman saves. The documentary Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World showcases the positive impact that superheroes can have in the best way possible, perfectly representing their message of self-empowerment.

Ironically, Maher's statement at the very end of his video is the real message of superheroes: “We need to be our own superheroes”. It's obvious that Maher only bashed superhero movies to make political jokes, but he also made false assumptions about the genre based on his lack of knowledge – which is something he has condemned in the past.

Superman: American Alien [Credit: DC Comics]
Superman: American Alien [Credit: DC Comics]

When it comes down to it, Maher was simply trying say that Americans need to come together and solve their own problems. He did go about it in a strange and uninformed way, but the message is one that rings true. Lucky for us, this is a message that lies at the core of most superhero films that we see on the big screen. Superheroes have become part of a new mythology, and like the tales of old, we can learn a lot from their stories.

Sound off! What do you think about Bill Maher's thoughts on the superhero genre? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below.


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